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Saturday, October 19, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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EWU, Kaufman primed for second playoff run

Eastern Washington quarterbacks Kyle Padron, left, and Vernon Adams. (Tyler Tjomsland)
Eastern Washington quarterbacks Kyle Padron, left, and Vernon Adams. (Tyler Tjomsland)

Getting separation is easy for Brandon Kaufman, who has 1,270 yards and 10 touchdowns to prove it.

But memories of the 2010 season are harder to shake than Deion Sanders; Kaufman doesn’t even try.

Two years later, you can’t separate Eastern’s defining sports moment from the players who made it happen. And want to make it happen again.

“Absolutely,” said Kaufman, who scored the title-winning touchdown against Delaware, then spent most of last year injured.

“Coming back, it was more about team than individual stats,” Kaufman said. “I had the same sense as everyone else about the 6-5 season.

“Throughout my rehab and training I had 6-5 on my mind … it feels good to get a second shot at it.”

To a man, the Eagles are focused on getting back to the FCS national title game, and aren’t shy about borrowing all from that championship season.

The lineup has changed but not the mind-set as the Eagles prepare for Saturday’s second-round game against Wagner.

“I see the potential there,” senior linebacker Grant Williams said. “We’ve been talking about it … we have different players, but with the stuff that’s happened this season we definitely have a chance.”

That includes six wins by a touchdown or less, the same winning recipe used by the 2010 team.

And while head coach Beau Baldwin emphazised that every squad is different, he acknowleged that many of the veterans “know what it takes, and the younger players look up to some of those guys.

“What we’ve gone through helps us.”

Kaufman knows that too, and hopes to impart some well-chosen words if needed.

“I think that if you see something, you can take them aside and tell them to calm down, that it’s not anything different than what they’ve seen all year.”

At the same time, Kaufman said it’s important to set an example by going hard in practice.

“That’s how you show the gravity of the situation and how important it is now, in the 13th week of the season, to go all out.”

QB decision looms

When asked who will start at quarterback, Baldwin said he and his staff were “still evaluating practice, getting a good feel and letting them compete.”

Junior Kyle Padron started the first two games of the season, then yielded to redshirt freshman Vernon Adams. Both have seen plenty of action, but Padron came off the bench to lead the Eagles to a 41-34 comeback win at Portland State in the final game of the regular season.

For the season, Adams has completed 116 of 186 passes (62.4 percent) for 1,586 yards, 14 touchdowns and six interceptions; Padron is 122 for 211 (57.8 percent) with 10 TDs and four picks. Adams also has 308 yards rushing, Padron 62.

Back on the field 10 days after that rain-soaked game in Portland, Padron said, with no trace of intentional humor: “It feels good to get the rust off.”

Catch of the year

Kaufman, a human highlight reel this season, was asked which reception he treasures most. Interestingly, it wasn’t his off-the-foot catch at the Portland State 1-yard-line, a reception that was voted tops in college football that week. No, the best memory was crafted late in the fourth quarter against double coverage. Kaufman hauled in a tough catch at the PSU 2, setting up Padron for the eventual game-winning score on a QB keeper.

EWU’s chosen field

When asked during Wednesday’s teleconference by a New York reporter about the “magic” of the red turf, Baldwin paused for a moment. “I don’t know if I’d call it magic,” Baldwin said. “But it’s a great identity for our guys. We love it if other teams are bothered by it, but it’s unique, it’s something we own and it’s our identity.” Magic or not, Eastern is 5-0 at home.

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